Hot Sauce Festival Triumphs, H-E-B Launches a Debit Card, Baraghani Delights, Bento Picnic Hosts the Harvest, Masienda Makes Masa Marvelous, and OMG Here Comes Oktoberfest Again

All the news that’s fit to get your taste buds quivering

Here's some of what's happening in Austin's culinary scene, as wrangled from numerous PR releases, words on the digital street, and even the occasional (verified) IRL eavesdroppings.

Nixta Taqueria's Xolovino Wine Club welcomes Jorge Gaviria of Masienda this weekend

Yes, citizen, it’s your “Food News Buffet” for the third week of September, wherein the recent summer’s hell-furnace begins to – slowly, incrementally – abate.

Good ol’ boys like to remind us, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.” So, yeah, we’ll ditch the modesty for a mo’ and tell you that this past weekend’s 32nd annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival (on the grounds of that excellent Far Out Lounge) was the best-attended, most successful culinary spectacle we’ve put together in more than three decades: It brought in, oh, great gobs of money for the community-supporting Central Texas Food Bank, smack in the middle of Hunger Action Month. Thank you, citizens! Thank you for showing up and savoring all the varieties of peppery heat and flavor conjured by your friends and neighbors and their local companies…

How about getting cash-back rewards with your grocery shopping, Texan? You know that when we’re buying vittles from somewhere other than a farmers' market, we’re likely buying them from H-E-B – for reasons obvious to anyone who’s lived in these parts for more than a month. Well. Now H-E-B has issued its own debit card, which comes with an automatic 5% back from purchases of thousands of store-brand products whenever you use it … and which also functions as a regular ol’ debit card – accepted anywhere that Mastercard is. “We’re always looking to provide Texans more ways to save,” notes
H-E-B’s marketing honcho Ashwin Nathan. And what’s the Texas grocery chain’s adorable acronymic slogan? “Here Everything’s Better,” right? Boy howdy, we’re beginning to believe it…

We just got back from a celebratory meal for the launch of acclaimed chef Andy Baraghani’s new The Cook You Want to Be cookbook, which took place at Summer House on Music Lane (1101 Music); and, first off, yes, this chef Andy seems all he’s cracked up to be – a true wizard in the kitchen, an affable chap in person – and, secondly, that cookbook? Oh, hey: The man can write. Not just passably enough to relate his own story and share recipes, but in a way that makes you want to keep reading and soak up anything he wants to tell you. Like, maybe he writes as well as he cooks, even. No wonder Baraghani’s been such a feather in the editorial cap for Bon Appétit … and no wonder a SoCo culinary treasure like Summer House was chosen to showcase the event…

Oh, you want to eat well, too? Fresh, delicious, with veggies ripped right from the local ground? Look: Bento Picnic on E. Cesar Chavez is celebrating the bounty of the season with a Late Summer Harvest Party tomorrow – Thu., Sept. 15, 5:30-8pm – and there’ll be wine pairings from Saba San's, too, if you want, and there might still be some tickets left

Yes, citizen, yes: You do want to eat what chef Kyle Barham's cooking at the Carillon

Also, you know the UT campus culinary pinnacle that rings so many Pavlovian bells, the Carillon? That posh establishment’s open for dinner again, after having been pandemically shuttered for like a year and a half! We mentioned it in this column a couple weeks ago, and – now that we’ve gone and partaken of what chef Kyle Barham has to offer – we’re telling you again. Does that mean it was a solid, worthwhile dining experience? Was there a lamb shank, for instance, that was so succulent and fork-tender that – reader, please. We’ll be raving about it in a blog post soon enough…

Let’s see – what else, what else? Ah, hell. The award-winning, LGBTQ-owned Crema Bakery is defunct… but, in brighter news, Fonda San Miguel is celebrating Diez y Seis… and Black Food Week continues through the 18th… and Still Austin’s got a fifth-anniversary shindig rocking the distillery on Saturday… and Aviary’s teamed up with the Austin Winery for a Feast of Friends… and Nixta Taqueria’s bringing in masa maven Jorge Gaviria of Masienda for a book release and special dinner… and you don’t want to miss out on the Austin Eastciders x Mike’s Hot Honey release party… and the Wine + Food Foundation wants to teach you about how to pair wines – with a little help from their friends at El Alma

Heads-up, mixological aspirants! There are only two more cocktail classes available from those sharp professionals at the Roosevelt Room this year: one featuring agave-based spirits (Sun., Sept. 18), and one more focused on gin and other juniper-based drinks (Sun., Oct. 16). Check ’em out here

Speaking of agave and agave-adjacent tipples, Desert Door Texas Sotol out in Driftwood is releasing the newest batch of their Explorer series. It’s called French Evolution, because this iteration of sotol was finished in a 20-year-old Armagnac barrel. Yeah, we’re jonesing for a taste, too; glad to relate it’ll be available at Desert Door from Sept. 22 to 25, noon-6pm. Note: Cocktails made with the exquisite stuff will run you about 12 bucks apiece, and that Lo Salvaje food truck will be featuring nilgai steak frites, which is nilgai steak and hand-cut fries with sotol and chipotle cream – so, kind of like a tastier, meatier, Texican version of poutine, n’est-ce pas? Do let them know when you’ll be showing up, hoss…

But it could be that bourbon is more your thing, hey? In which case you need to know about Garrison Brothers’ five-course dinner with bourbon pairings – at Austin’s Taverna, a farm-to-table epicenter of Northern Italian cuisine, with head honcho Charlie Garrison himself as your host, introducing you to the brand’s storied expressions. That’s coming up fast on Thursday, Sept. 29, so we figured to tell you ASAP and provide this link to the tickets

And does it seem like there’s a … oh, how to put it? Like there’s a veritable fuckton of beer-fueled and at least faintly Germanic Oktoberfest events swiftly approaching? That’s because there are, actually. And, in addition to this royal proclamation about Koko’s Bavarian, we’ll have a helpful roundup ready for you early next week…

Now eat as well as you can, tip like it’s going out of style, and remember: If you pray for rain, it’s no more likely to rain than if you don’t.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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